Saturday, March 8, 2008

Losing the Groove, Madonna Stumbles

As it is being widely reported, Madonna wants to get her American groove back. Alright, that it is perfectly cool. Madonna has been refining her Euro-pop electro element for several albums, a return to something more organic could prove fruitful. Right? Wrong. As a longtime Madonna fan, I can't say how underwhelmed I've been about the news surrounding her upcoming Hard Candy LP, her last for Warner Bros.

The collaborators that had been announced included Felix Da Housecat, Swizz Beats, Pharrell, Justin Timberlake, and Timbaland. The latter three give me pause. I say this because I feel that it reeks of calculation, which saying that about Madonna may not surpise some. Madonna has always walked a line of artistry and commercial accessibility, choosing producers that are "bubbling under" or ones at the top of their creative, critical, and commercial peaks.

Looking back, Madonna has done this before. Instead of plowing headlong into the diluted house revolution of the early 1990's after "Vogue," LPs such as Erotica (1992) and Bedtime Stories (1994) found her adding a more urban element. Specifically, the Bedtime Stories LP possessed a soft, organic plushness owed to working with, at the time, the biggest names in urban music: Dave "Jam" Hall, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, and Dallas Austin.

These producers were crafting excellent, now classic urban jams, but managed to crossover without losing their footing in black music culture. They gave Madonna excellent material, which allowed her to be one-step ahead trend wise,  but step forward artistically. From the two songs I've heard from Hard Candy, "Candy Shop" and "4 Minutes," Madonna wants to sound like Fergie. The songs are clumsy, lack grace, style, and any type of element that would bring Madonna to mind.

What does all this mean? Why is this bothering me? Madonna entered her veteran stride with Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005), but she managed to keep a sound that was hers. Now, because that album and the one before it only cleared platinum units domestically, she has taken it personally. Madonna feels that appealing to the lowest common denominator will restore her commercial luster Stateside. These producers, Timbaland mostly, while commercially on it, haven't had it creatively in several years. Had Madonna worked with Pharrell or Timbaland in 2001-2002, when they both were at their creative peak, the results may'have been intriguing. Though, I will admit the Swizz Beats work might be kind of fun.

But what does Madonna have to prove really? Sales aside, Madonna has done so much already, and this new LP seems already like a wasted opportunity to try something different, if not cutting edge. Time will tell what this move will mean for Madonna and her fans.-QH


S. Flemming said...

Hmmm, well, we've talked about this. I'm being patient. I don't like the new single either though. I guess we'll just see what happens ...

Keith Michael said...

Q, I honestly think giving an opinion about an album you haven't heard shows a negative bias toward the producers she's enlisted. Having talked to you before, I know that you have a personal vendetta against Justin Timberlake- mostly for the Super Bowl blowout. Timbaland then worked with Justin which pissed you off more and now that Madonna recognizes their undeniable talent and ability to make good music that you can dance to, you're bashing her for it. Hard Candy has 13 songs.

1) Candy Store
2) 4 Minutes To Save The World
3) Give it 2 Me
4) Heartbeat
5) Miles Away
6) She's Not Me
7) Incredible
8) Beat Goes On
9) Dance Tonight
10) Spanish Lesson
11) Devil
12) Voices

You've heard two (only one finished version) and you're already calling the album a disaster. I simply don't see how you can you call yourself a Madonna fan after you not only don't show support, but you suggest this might be the beginning of the end of her career. If you support a politician or performing artist, you may disagree with some things they do, but you do not publicly bash them when they make a misstep- no matter your job being to critique the music. (If that is your reasoning, you should have waited until the album came out)

Ask yourself, Quentin:

Would I have written this about my sister or mother's album?

No support= not a fan



ps I still love you and think you do excellent work. I just had to speak out on this one.

jbrotherlove said...

I'm a Madonna fan and also question the producers she's chosen for this project.

For sure "4 Minutes To Save The World" has me underwhelmed. In fact; I have a hard time listening to it.

I don't know; we'll just have to wait and see.